LEFT HANGING: Guests At Orlando Pesach Program Evicted From Rented Villas When Owner Apparently Ran Off

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A Pesach program in Orlando, Fla., which attracted many guests from the New York area, descended into chaos this week after the owner of the program failed to pay at least $75,000 for goods and services provided by the resort, workers and vendors, according to the program’s remaining staff, The Jewish Week reports.

The program was started 16 years ago by the owner, who appears to have vacated the premises, leaving his remaining staff to contend with hundreds of shocked and disgruntled patrons.

Unlike Pesach programs held in hotels, at this program, guests rent spacious, multi-bedroom houses to accommodate large and multi-generational families in popular vacation areas. Staff at the program said they were unaware of any financial problems until last Thursday when they first learned that a housing vendor was owed $6,000.

“That turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg,” said Brian Goldberg, one of the program’s operations managers, in an interview with The Jewish Week on Tuesday.

Guests and staff found out on Sunday that money was owed to the vendors who rent out the private villas.  Eviction notices were put on 11 villas, eight occupied by staff and three by guests, Goldberg said.

On Friday, the resort staff informed the Pesach program staff that $50,000 was owed for use of the resort’s common areas, including a kitchen and space for a dining tent. That began, in Goldberg’s words, a “scramble.”

At that time, the owner promised to pay the resort by check, which was due by April 1, but he had asked that the management wait until this past Monday to cash the check. When the check bounced on Monday, the resort staff called the police to remove the Pesach program staff and equipment from the premises. In addition, Goldberg said he learned that the program owed $11,000 to a tent rental company for tents used for synagogue services and a dining area.

Guests were informed on Monday evening that they would be barred from using certain parts of the resort. “We have been informed by the management at Windsor at Westside and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department that we are temporarily not allowed to use the common areas at Westside,” wrote Goldberg in an email to guests. “This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved, and we are banding together in an effort to provide the necessary essentials to our guests through the remainder of the holiday.”

Dennis Ratzker, the operations partner, said several guests pledged to help cover the debts still owed by the program to vendors and workers. Goldberg and Ratzker have together paid more than $15,000 from their own pockets to cover costs.

Though the total debts unpaid remain in the range of $75,000, according to Goldberg, he said he expects to uncover more debts as the holiday progresses. “We’re going to need more propane, and I assume the credit card” that was given to management “is not going to work. I think we’re going to discover more unknowns.”

For now, davening is being held in one of the villas since the large tent that had been used is now off limits, and food is being brought in from Miami.

Read more: The Jewish Week

19 COMMENTS

  1. Stay in your own home for Pesach and teach your children how to prepare for Pesach. The next generation and, nebech, many in this generation have no idea how or what to do to prepare for Pesach or even how to conduct a Seder. I know a very wealthy person with many kids who until a few years ago went to a program each and every year. He decided to become frum and sent his kids to yeshivas. The kids started to ask questions about the family mesorah. The parents didn’t know how to answer the kids. As far as they knew, on Pesach you go to a program with entertainment, a pool, sweets table, etc. This person hired a Chasidishe Rov and his family to come along to the program and teach them and show them what to do and how to conduct a proper Seder. B”H it was no problem for this person to pay over $400,000.00 for his family, all 7 nannies (one for each young child) and the Rov’s family. This was 8-9 years ago. Today the kids who learned in Yeshivas prepare for Pesach and help their father conduct a shayne Seder.

    • Uuuh…am I the only one who sees the ridiculousness of this story’s “mussar?” The man forked over 400K (400K!!!) to take nannies and the Rov (!!!) and his family to “teach him how to conduct a Seder???” And that is not insane???
      He couldn’t just have the Rov do this for him at home?
      And does he (she) need SEVEN nannies??

    • Perhaps this very wealthy gentleman (or lady?) has now frum children in the merit of having spent money every year in honour of the chag and of not alienating the family with cleaning and with stringencies beyond their level.

    • Can’t wait for all the “kiddush hashem” & “Me kiamcha yisroel” stories pouring out of Disney World that took place during Chal Hamoed.
      The rich just keep on getting richer.

  2. I guess Matzav in their high holiness sanctimonious phonyism, won’t say the name of the owner. Matzav is so concerned about mesira. Pheh.

  3. The “owner” pulled this exact same thing about maybe 10 years ago. Only then, he was taken away by the police. It looks like he learned from past mistakes.

  4. That’s what you get for being elitists and making everyone who couldn’t afford to go away for Pesach and had to stay home jealous and resentful. Why can’t we all just stay home? why do you need to rub your money in our faces??!?!?

    • Jealous of what? I feel sorry for all these fools that go away every pesach! They are totally clueless of what pesach is all about !!! Nebach on them…..

    • so that’s the reason everyone goes away? maybe some people dont want any family members preoccupied with cooking and serving. and they can afford it.

    • Stupid. The torah also said kedoshim though, also said don’t cause pain to your poor brothers, also said not to be over lifnei iver….. gosh

  5. I dont believe this. the amount of money spent on these vacations is presumably more than my entire years earnings ttto 40k. There are definitely many distasteful things about this program. BUT WHO IS ANYONE TO LECTURE SOME OTHER PERSON ON WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR MONEY??? The Gemarah says Hillel ran before a once rich man who lost his wealth to serve him, and that THAT IS THE MITZVA OF TZEDAKAH. so who are you puny little fellow to call someone elitist because he has more money than you? who asked you to think he’s trying to set a standard you have to live up to or lord over you in the slightest way?? I agree with the above comment… “lo Sachmod”. And for the ppl who say “this isnt Pesach what are you teaching your kids” you are probably from the greater “nevonim” so i wouldnt want to disagree (insert sarcasm here), but there are many ppl especially hard working men and women, who, for them, this type of thing can be beneficial and just fine. if theres no issur in something then dont be a porush on yenems cheshbon…

  6. Stupid. The torah also said kedoshim though, also said don’t cause pain to your poor brothers, also said not to be over lifnei iver….. gosh

  7. Chazal teach Bchol m’odecah: There are those who value money more than life. Said individuals would be wise to learn another chazal which states sof ganev L’talyah.

  8. Lest anyone think that there’s anything legitimate to what “Hey Japs” has written. The Torah says that a person who could afford brings one type of korbon (bull) and one who can’t afford brings another type of korbon (flour). That’s the way it always was and will always be. Taking three pesukim out of context doesn’t prove anything unless one disagrees with the author. For the record, I stay at home and I’m happy to do so, not jealous and resentful.

  9. This happened twice during the 90’s in the Tamarack Lodge and also in the Sans Souci Hotel in Miami Beach. There was an elteh bachur crook who ganved from guillibe fools and got away with it.

  10. Did anyone else feel extremely bad for the poor staff left holding the ball?
    Whether or not the idea of Pesach away is your cup of tea, you gotta feel bad for those who were wronged.

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